vive the low-resolution turkey! what happens when you combine cmos image sensors with photo-taking excitement.

had a small gathering of the boys who happened to be in london, jr came over from mannheim, chan lek brought port from cambridge, alex provided the house and most of the ingredients and i provided an empty stomach. at least it was good, home-away-from-home stuff on christmas, where there's absolutely nothing to do. everything is closed. except the great west doors of st paul's cathedral where we attended evensong.

boxing day is a different story. most of the shops open and start offering massive discounts, and it's quite uncomfortable shopping with some of the crowds. covent garden was quieter because i was there insanely early so i could concentrate on buying teas and gifts. with only a limited budget, i had to settle for half-priced stuff from lilywhites. i've held the urge in for quite long now, but i really enjoy shopping now. bought a casual blazer from zara, 39.99. (details.)

26-29th was spent with my relatives in belgium, who showed us around pretty comprehensively (ok, flanders mainly). we were supposed to visit dinant in the ardennes for some hiking/scenery but it kept snowing in the south and it was difficult without proper chained tires. on the last day i had the fortune to be caught in a nice big snowfall in brussels.

so we visited brugge, antwerp, ghent, leuven and brussels. i stayed in a county home in st-lieven's esse, eating nice huge loafs of country bread with all sorts of spreads and the best pain au chocolat ever. weather was miserable, always below freezing, snowed across most of europe (they said it would snow over london too, though there was no evidence of that. it's supposed to snow today.) alex and jianrong tried 6 types of beer which leaves over 600 to go. even visited the headquarters of imbev, largest brewery in the world and the stella artois factory. highlights were the nice belfries, cathedrals and places in virtually all the medieval looking cities, the comic museum (tintin! asterix! iznogoud!), belgian waffles, belgian chocolates, and the university at leuven which is half-decent and looks a nice place to study. i will put up pictures soon.


snowboarding was the most fun i had in a long time. you get your ass kicked by the slope when you start but there's something about learning something new that takes your breath away (as does the ride up the ski lift and the accompanying scenery). importantly, i enjoyed myself with the icss people, acquitted myself well in the many late night games of poker and am able to go down slopes at reasonable speeds with reasonable technique. what a feeling! i'm coming back, i love the mountains. and the clear blue water of the is�re river. and there's an immense feeling of satisfaction when you feel ready to try further, more difficult pistes with better scenery.

now, who's for a life of teaching horseriding in summer and skiing in winter. there's something different about france especially (tempted to draw links with the bedevilled CAP). the rolling hills of bourgogne and saone-loire slowly give rise to the alps, and you can tell the countryside is really important to these people. and food too, i had so much cheese, many different trypes of bread and lasagne, and many many types of meat and sausage. mmm.

the french alps. mont blanc (according to an instructor) does that look like 4807m to you?

beginner's piste. i would give up my ass to it many times on the first day.

albertville, host of the 1992 winter olympics. one of the stops on the paris - bourg st maurice tgv route, and not far from where i'd be skiing. would finally get there in 30 minutes, after panicking and trying to find gare de lyon in paris at 6 in the morning.

the white cliffs of montserrat

the sagrada familia (still under construction)

'And Peter said, "Man, I know not what thou sayest." And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.' -
Luke, 22:60

A sculpture by Subirachs on the Sagrada Familia. This person does simple but moving sculptures, and the whole facade was an immensely ambitious attempt to narrate the story of Christ's passion.

valencia had many nice cathedrals and a good view of the mediterranean sea but i didn't find any of the pictures nice enough.


i'm off! and although there's now an extra stop at gay par-eeeee, who could mind?
"i am sitting in my room in london smiling to myself. after leaving my friends in spain i travelled and nearly got lost on the way back from barcelona to luton because i thought i was god of spanish (and realizing the barcelonetans speak catalan) when i actually only know how to say "tickets?", "here?", "there" and "please." after finally figuring out the train system and arriving back in london, feeling all pleased about myself, i realised i missed a connection because i thought it was one day later.

so now i have to figure out how to get to lyon and then la plagne from here in the next 24 hours. so instead of fretting about it, i decide to waste time in front of the computer."


the parts when you're alone always threaten to upset the entire balance. i know i asked for this, i know i wanted some time alone, but not this much! every coach ride, 4, 7, 10 hours imperils my sanity as the mind wanders over previously sanitised parts of the brain. my neighbours are back home. most of my friends are in singapore. the remainder is spread out over parts of europe being back for christmas or skiing. once i get moving again (in 2 hours time, maybe), i know i'll feel alive again, but i can't stand this waiting. especially when there's no one to bitch to. in 24 hours! i will see people other than the ticket girl again!


i should put up pictures, especially of the friendly people in barcelona. perhaps when i return from france. when i actually walked down the hill i missed a hostel for once. maybe because it was that it was eons away from civilization and a painful climb every time i returned. but it was not just the location but the defiance of the place. people with one form of disability or another continuing their life (at least outwardly) happily and with joie de vivre. and i enjoyed being around them because i didn't have to worry, and they couldn't seem to care less about the world.


Liverpool is gorgeous! It took me something like 10 hours to get there, because I wanted to save 15 quid each person, so i opted for a 5 hour layover in Manchester. I am now getting very familiar with Chorlton St Station. The stay confirmed my suspicions about Manchester though, they do have pound a pint beer and at 3 in the morning the city centre is covered with sloshed students in their fine miniskirts in the freezing night. it's amazing to such a huge density of them.

got into liverpool just as the sun peeked out of the horizon. The city is distinguished by its ude of red brick (red, liverpool, jersey? get it?), giving the city its own identity and flavour. The architecture is gorgeous, they have their share of large, grand city halls and museums, especially on the banks of the river Mersey, where old warehouses and buildings belonging to what-used-to-be huge shipping corporations make up the skyline. The river Mersey is wide at this point, as it almost meets the sea. It is thus not spanned by bridges, but by an underground tunnel. Gazing out into the river was one of those moments where I felt like shouting into infinity. Albert Dock is also really cute, gives everything a 19th century port city feel, so it succeeds in transmitting that part of history. In the maritime shops they sell all sorts of maritime memorabilia, there was of course the Beatles Story and Tate Liverpool which can rival the Tate Modern for its reverence of straight lines and vastness in architecture.

The highlight was to be the Liverpool-Middlesbrough game in the afternoon. Finally, Anfield! The footballers I wanted to be when I was young! Although they're mostly gone/retired now, but the current batch is pretty good too (am I kidding myself, they're much better than the crap side I grew up supporting who never won anything but were fantastic to watch). I ooohed and aaahed as I walked through the Paisley gates, saw the Kop, rushed to empty the merchandise shop and take my seat at the Main Stand. I was to be pretty close to the anfield road end where the boro supporters were.

pre-match music featured a mix of what's-being-played-at-most-clubs now, a few beatles/lennon songs (especially merry xmas, war is over) as it was lennon's death anniversary 2 days previous. you'll never walk alone! cue scarves and much bellowing. it wasn't the most powerful rendition i think i've heard (how it must be like in istanbul), but yay, i've sung it at anfield!

match got off and the first half saw us having most of the posession and chances with nothing really incisive. the boro supporters were superb throughout, singing and cheering. we were a little nervous and everyone really was waiting for some sort of spark to get going. there were jibes directed at them "you can't even beat sunderland" was one. 2nd half was rather more fast paced given that they were now attacking the kop end, gerrard played really wide and often found himself the extra man on the right wing. sissoko had an okay game disrupting play, his passing and final ball often left much to be desired, but he's improving. kewell had a decent game running at defenders, almost beating schwarzer with a lob. they still sometimes give him stick for not pressing enough. crouch was still winning balls in the air but the boro defence was eating up the 2nd ball comfortably. he wasn't going to get as much headway against southgate and ehiogu as he did during wigan, and the many headers we had on target were pretty tame. many times where a chance would come by almost teasing us to score but our shot would be weak or the striker would fail to get there in time.

sissoko made a pretty late tackle on matt bates i think, which led to some retaliation. this led to both sets of supporters chanting "off, off, off" in gladiatoral fashion. garcia came on for crouch and we got back to 5 in midfield, with more pace and width. hyppia had to come off for stitches in the 2nd half, during which time garcia put in a teasing cross, i though gerrard missed it completely (turns out it was a dummy) but the ball ran free to morientes and the entire stadium jumped up and down as the deadlock was finally broken. we broke into "10 men, we only need 10 men" and "we've won it 5 times, we've won it 5 times, we're gonna win it 6 times." A mistake by the boro defence put nando through again and he lobbed the keeper this time for his 2nd. i was going to go back a happy man.


i will be leaving for valencia tomorrow so i won't be around for some time. i'll work my way up the spanish coast to barcelona. will be back in london 17th but on the same night i'll take a bus to la plagne in savoie to ski. wanderlust! no it's just a holiday, and i feel really guilty that i'm going to overrun my expenditure and not have time to catch up on work. when i told my dad i was going to spain he gave me a song, spanish boots of spanish leather. listening it reminded me of the wonderfully lucky people who are going back somewhere to see their loved ones. but as with any dylan song, the twist is in the last 2 stanzas, and i think its just a nice song for any traveller out there. if you're confused, dylan alternates between the "male" and "female" voice starting with the "female" in his version, though i'm listening to the nanci griffiths one which assumes everything makes sense.

Oh, I'm sailin' away my own true love,
I'm sailin' away in the morning.
Is there something I can send you from across the sea,
From the place that I'll be landing?

No, there's nothin' you can send me, my own true love,
There's nothin' I wish to be ownin'.
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled,
From across that lonesome ocean.

Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden,
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona.

Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean,
I'd forsake them all for your sweet kiss,
For that's all I'm wishin' to be ownin'.

That I might be gone a long time
And it's only that I'm askin',
Is there something I can send you to remember me by,
To make your time more easy passin'.

Oh, how can, how can you ask me again,
It only brings me sorrow.
The same thing I want from you today,
I would want again tomorrow.

I got a letter on a lonesome day,
It was from her ship a-sailin',
Saying I don't know when I'll be comin' back again,
It depends on how I'm a-feelin'.

Well, if you, my love, must think that-a-way,
I'm sure your mind is roamin'.
I'm sure your heart is not with me,
But with the country to where you're goin'.

So take heed, take heed of the western wind,
Take heed of the stormy weather.
And yes, there's something you can send back to me,
Spanish boots of Spanish leather.


warm fuzzy feeling

i've always been thrilled by images of snow falling somewhere (let's take rockefeller square for a start), or maccaulay culkin sitting in the church hiding from bad guys, lost in a foreign city and watching the choir do carols in a church. i wanted that warm fuzzy feeling.

so i went to the christmas concert by held by LSE at St Clement's Danes. That's the RAF church on the Strand just opposite in the little island in between the Aldwych traffic. It's so close it feels like our church, but it's really the RAF's. You can tell because there's statues of Arthur Harris (wasn't he the guy who came up with firebombing Dresden? Ok I guess I shouldn't judge, it was a difficult time in difficult circumstances) and Gladstone. Oh everyone loves Gladstone for being such a good prime minister. They always worship him in my history readings.

We have a good choir and orchestra, and they did nice pieces like Ne Timeas Maria, excerpts from Handel's Messiah (yes, Hallelujah!), and I was reminded of how different in tone the old testament is from the new, and how revelations was probably the only one similar in grandeur (different message i guess). I thought I would die of emotion looking at the huge christmas tree and thinking about spending a cold lonely winter in a foreign land (sure.)

but then they did mendelssohn's violin concerto which was honestly so moving because they had a good violinist for one who had proper facial expressions, and he looked really natural. plus, the violin is such a nifty instrument. it can go from very happy to very sad.

ended with beethoven, symphony no. 8. anyway, i headed back with miguel and i learnt how to say "sonofabitch" in spanish! finally. spanish practical usage. true to form, i am the rain man. after some major event going back from lse you can expect it to rain on me. cold. so cold. by the way, miguel was the person who claimed god was on lsd, and i could just see that his mind was wandering during the religious parts of the ceremony, and true enough, he told me he was figuring out indifference curves again. this man thinks indifference curves for everything. pretty women, short women, he has them going northeast and southwest, thinks whether something is a bijection or not. at the same time he likes latin music and as we were in subway listening to the dance song they play at every club nowadays he told me it means "gasoil, gasoil". what? "gazoy, gazoy?" what does that mean in spanish? no "gasoil, petrol, petrol". that's really dumb i said. why are we dancing to the lamentations of a car mechanic?

and on the way back we continued our discussion on what was interesting in mathematics. no, not why did god pick 3 (theology is the lack of faith, so said popper), but he said he was "risk-taker" so he wanted to do courses in pure probability, not the fuddy-duddy ones offered in dept of statistics. ok. and topology, and real analysis, and etc... and going to nepal to work. cool. interesting. i didn't have the heart to tell him i like argentinian soccer but i had just studied argentina's multiple debt failures. but he was the closest i got to honesty today. which was refreshing=). i suspect he would try to find some subject starting with D so that he could call LSE the LSD instead. he's funny like that.


LSE was all over the papers and radio today. Not for any laudatory research or accomplishment, it went something as follows:

"Drunken LSE Mob Storms Kings"
"Holborn students on drunken rampage."

after our annual barrel run some students saw it fit in their alcoholic stupor to smash the glass windows of a rival college, run through the corridors disrupting classes (causing the king's people to cower in their classes) and taking the ceiling fittings along with them. 30,000 pounds of damage and much bad publicity later, i think i need to start telling people i'm from another school=).

naughty boys.


when all i ever wanted was to be a beatle

i've just recovered from a deep slumber. the only thing i remember from the morning is the cleaner whom i usually say hi to when he pops in on thursday and i'm supposed to be at one the maths examples sessions.

had a poor, poor 48 hours (but it gets better). i had a bit too much to drink at metra and i enjoyed it but i'm sure it wasn't good for me. returned at 4.30 in the morning half afraid someone would jump on me from the middle of one of the wonderfully lit bushes along the thames. i actually bothered waking up in 2 hours time to freshen up and head for my morning class without feeling too bad.

tea, coffee, tea, later, i'm on the underground towards victoria. i'm waiting for the bus to manchester and jingxiang, who was late. so the bus driver slammed the door shut in front of me as i tried to get the bus off its inevitable routine for just a couple of minutes. true to form, he arrived a couple of minutes late, we missed the whole damn bus and we'd to book more tickets.

depart 1 pm instead (oh lost sleep!). got onto the bus with not much in the way of lunch and i somehow have a fascination with the riveting english countryside (no, there is not much to see) trying to see if there were sheep somewhere amidst the power lines and the houses. same featureless post-industrial blend of faux-countryside (as we're all taught to believe happened to england after all those years of industrialisation), sort of the same as on the way to nottingham, perhaps because it was the same motorway. foggy fog fog.

arrived at manchester, had barely time to look around the city square, look for toilets and other creature comforts we had missed out on in the cramped confines of the bus, we took a packed metrolink stop (almost got on at the wrong stop) towards old trafford, which was situated in a quiet part of town, except for match days, poor residents.

i'm not a united fan, so i put on my best smile as eager friends trawled through the MEGAstore (just begs capital letters doesn't it) rushing to see who could empty it first... it was nice to see so many people giving away their jerseys or having nice tokens of appreciation to put at the "george best shrine" outside the east stand, as policemen on horses surveyed the maddening crowd. george best scarfs and t-shirts started at around �5 each.

got to our seats (ticket said :warning, lots of climbing involved), got overpriced burger again (with onions) a free george best poster (which was supposed to come in handy later). it's breathtakingly exciting not being a fan but seeing stadiums with bright red neon lights as they show them on prem saturday, going into a stadium hearing noise and bright lights and immaculate pitches. they got back some of the wba team which best had his debut against, including the fullback who got sold a nutmeg, bobby robson was back of course, as was bobby charlton and alex ferguson. they had an elaborate wreath-laying ceremony of sorts.

the whole pre-match crowd tired their hands by raising their best posters and then observing a minute of silence. moving sight. public exercise of elegy, mourning and grief always is, even if you felt nothing for the person, you sort of felt it was something important, like a soul had really disappeared somewhere.

match got on... i was disappointed whenever there was an offside and there wasn't a replay. to be honest, west brom let ud have the game and ronaldo, saha and o'shea punished them. i loved it when the stretford end kept chanting "no 1 is georgie best, no 2... georgie best until 11... georgie best" and then jumping up and down thumping their feet congratulating themselves for "living in a georgie best world." it was especially moving when you see some physically disabled people do their best to, and again a reminder that something as unimportant as football is actually really important every wednesday and saturday, if only as a nice little way to let go of your emotions. they also had shouts of "there's only one keano", no telling who else they were missing. must be nice for the youngsters making their debut.

nice to see after the game banter between albion and united fans, with chants of "albion, albion" in the metrolink, speaking of cyril regis as "paul scholes in disguise", and a weird inexplicable chant of "john lennon, john lennon." perhaps lamenting the fact that he wasn't given chants in a stadium when he died?

as i sat in the burger king afraid of the cold outside, they started "happy xmas, war is over." oh no, it's that time of the year again, to get excessively sentimental at piped christmas songs. of course, it was by john lennon and yoko ono.

so many role models, or not? there's been a big argument about whether george best ought to have a minute of silence or applause, whether he should be considered a role model or worshipped in view of his dubious personal life. in any case, i don't think morality is a key determinant in worshipping heroes (although some character inevitably is, honesty, directed rebellion, being able to fly past 20 defenders for example), and i think we do know that all of 'em have some fatal flaw buried somewhere (which makes us love them more). in any case, one of the editors of the guardian said it best "we love george best because we wanted to play football like him, not carouse like him."

all this talk, it's never going to stop kids growing up to want to be someone. its what civilisation is founded on maybe.